A Day In The Life - Running Wardrobe - Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour

By Joe Kucharski - January 30, 2014

Wendy Benstead runs a studio in London that makes exceptional garments for film, TV, theatre, bridal and couture. Over the holidays, Wendy was involved in the Boyzone 20th Anniversary tour. I recently had the chance to ask her about life on the road- a behind the scenes look at the world of wardrobe.

 

 Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour

Tyranny of Style: You recently wrapped a tour with Boyzone, can you tell us a bit about how you became involved with them?

 

Wendy Benstead: Previous to this tour I had mostly only done wardrobe for film, TV and a few music videos and theatre productions, this was my first music tour. I met another wardrobe supervisor on a job for Paloma Faith, who is a long-term client of mine, and we became friends, she was offered the Boyzone tour but was unable to attend, so she asked me to fill in. This isn't my usual line of work, but it was a great opportunity to try my hand at something slightly different! I was introduced to Michele, who has been Boyzone's Wardrobe Manager for a while, and she offered me the position of Wardrobe Supervisor for the four-week 'BZ20' tour. 

 

T/S: Can you walk us through a typical day in the life on tour with wardrobe?

 

WB: Most days start fairly early if it’s a gig day, with a load in for around 8.30am. The crew, staging, kit and wardrobe will have travelled from the previous show overnight in busses and trucks, and will arrive at the destination in the early hours. We then wake up on site, and start with finding a suitable room for Wardrobe base, and opening the cases and unloading the costumes onto rails.  

Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour, photo by Wendy Benstead

 

As the shows were only one a day, we start by organizing any laundry that needed to be done, which most days was shirts for the boys, and under garments for the dancers. The dancers costumes couldn't be laundered every show, as some of them were delicate, so these were only laundered when needed, or sprayed with neat vodka and Febreeze! It’s a super trick and surprisingly they don't get too smelly! We would also check for any visible marks and dirt, and if the costumes couldn't be cleaned, we use wet wipes or a cloth to clean them. Sometimes the laundry is done on site, as the larger venues have washing machines, if not we would go out to find a local launderette. 

We would have sorted the laundry after the last show the night before, so it would be organized into blacks and whites, and then sometimes, if there was a washing machine in that arena, we would actually stay after the gig to get the laundry done if we knew there were no washing machines in the next venue. We would then take the wet laundry onto our tour bus, and hang it up to dry over night. This did mean we spent a lot of time lugging shirts between arenas and busses. But it meant we were already ahead of ourselves for the next day. 

For the first few gigs, there would be a few problems after each show that sometimes needed fixing, such as buttons needing to be replaced for poppers and issues with quick change that needed to be repaired. During the first three days in production week, while the boys were rehearsing, we would spend a lot of time changing fastenings to make them easier for quick change and starting to pre-empt any issues that might arise. This meant we changed almost all of the boys shirts to have Velcro front fastening, with fake buttons, and instead of cufflinks we use buttons on elastic to allow the shirts to be put on quickly without being fiddly. 

 

Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour

 

Sometimes during prep for the shows we would have to redo these, as well as do minor repairs. In a few occasions we had to make some alterations to the costumes for fit, or make major repairs. As the boys were in a mix of couture and high street, their costumes didn't necessarily withstand a whole amount of performance, as these clothes are not designed to! On one occasions Shane's trousers split completely, and we had to patch in a piece of fabric. But after one more show, they split again, so we opted to ditch them and bought another style.  

Other major alterations included having to change zips in the dancers first look, and they come out of those VERY quickly and the 'invisible' style zips would catch or get stuck. One night early on in the run, a dancer got stuck in her dress and I had to tear her out of it!

We also altered one of Shane's jackets for fit, as it wasn't sitting right on him. Major alterations like this would sometimes be sent out to local alterations houses, but as I am a tailor myself, I was able to do these on site. 

 

Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour, photo by Patrick Downes

 

The major task of prepping for show day was to iron all 22 of the boys and bands shirts! There were around 15 jackets to steam too, and about 12 pairs of trousers. Between the two of us, this could often take a while! We would split the task between us, often taking it in turns to bear the brunt of the ironing, as it was rather laborious. As the workload was a lot to get through, we often had a local crewmember come in to assist us at each new venue.

Sometimes there was shopping that had to be done during the day too. We would have to replace anything that was broken beyond repair, and the white shirts and t-shirts wouldn't stand up to multiple wears, so we would raid Zara or Next most days for replacements. Sometimes as well, the boys would want to make a change to an outfit, and so Michele would have to find a restyle from a local source. For instance, Keith wanted to change one of his shirts, as after a few shows, he wasn’t feeling the look, and wanted something else. After a few ideas, he eventually went with a plaid tartan shirt of his own, which went with the overall look the boys were wearing. Its tough when these changes need to be made, as we don't want to interfere with the looks the stylist has created, but ultimately on the road, sometimes decisions have to be made.

Once all the repairs, alterations, laundry and buying had been done, we would then start prepping the line-ups for the show that night, by placing the costumes on rails in the order in which they were to be worn. 

 

Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour 

For the show there were 4 looks: 'Movie Idols and Goddesses', 'Monochromatic', 'Rock Couture' and 'Showgirls and Princes'. This meant the boys had three quick changes. For the dancers there were actually 6 looks, most of which were combinations of items. There were 6 dancers, and 6 quick changes for them. The dancers costumes were a mix of bespoke pieces, high street, and embellished garments. Having chatted through with Shelina about the looks she created, I am so impressed at what she managed to do within the budget! The girls’ costumes were great. 

The boys were mostly in tailored looks. There was a mix of colours, but mostly darks, paired with hints of navy and red in places. It was smart, and 'grown up', no way near the ‘90s boy band image they may have rocked back in their heyday! It was slick and modern though, without being over styled.

 

 Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour, photo by Patrick Downes

As I was in charge of the dancers quick changes, and Michele was in with the boys, we would each set up our own quick-change areas backstage. For me, that meant preparing x6 chairs with towels, water, and a station for each of the girls to put their make up, hair products etc. in. As space was sometimes really tight, things could get a little chaotic! I would have a rail either in the space with me, or outside the room nearby, and it was then important that I counted in every item to make sure everything was there ready for show. 

There were quite a few accessories for the dancers too, including shoes, belts, fans, Mickey Mouse ears, canes, prop hearts and gloves. It was my job to make sure nothing got lost, which meant being vigilant and organized! As show time approached I would line up the accessories in the order they would be needed, make sure the garments were paired up into the looks they were needed for, and make sure all 6 girls' full costumes were in order. 

 

Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour, photo by Dominique Tipper

 

Show Time:

I would usually aim to have the quick-change area all set for around 7.00pm. This then gave us an hour to take a break, and eat dinner in the catering rooms. All catering on show days is provided, and it’s actually really great to have a hot dinner to sit down to when you wouldn’t have time to normally! 

At around 8pm, I would then check I have my whole kit ready, which for me means a tool belt prepped with scissors, pins, needle & thread, a Sharpie pen, pliers, and various other crucial pieces of equipment. It’s really important that you have everything you need at hand, as in the speed of the show you won’t have time to go looking! Sometimes this also includes a head torch if it’s dark backstage. Combined with a tool belt, it doesn’t look very cool, but glamour takes a backseat when there’s a job to do.

 

Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour, photo by Dominique Tipper

 

Michele and I would then pop into each other’s quick-change rooms just to check the other was okay. Teamwork is important and if one of us was struggling, we would always jump on board to give each other a hand. On one occasion a shirt had gone missing, and it was only a few hours before show time, so we operated a 'divide and conquer' whereby I dashed into town to buy a Zara shirt, and Michele prepped my quick change with our other crew member for the night. It could have been bad if I hadn't made it back on time, but as it happens I did, and actually the shirt was found anyway. It’s times like this when the need to keep a cool head, and be able to problem solve comes in to play.

The boys and dancers would get dressed into their first looks in their dressing rooms, and would then come down into quick-change dressed and ready to go. There were no make up or hair artists on this tour. I am normally used to having a full glam team on film or video, so any requirements here kind of fell under wardrobe. However the girls all did their own hair and make up, so this was not something I needed to worry too much about. Glam-wise, I only needed to make sure the girls had hair products in quick change, as they did change hairstyle half way through the show. Other then that, making sure there were enough plasters on hand for blisters was about as 'glam' as it got!

The girls and Boyzone would then arrive into quick change at about 8:20pm, ahead of an 8:40 stage time. This gave the sound department time to do checks, and make sure the boys all had their in-ears in and mic packs on. Michele and I would then do any last check over their first looks, and ensure they where all stage ready. This was the moment the nerves really started to kick in for the performers, and its really important here to try and be as least as possible in their way, which is hard when you are checking zips and loose threads.

Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour, photo by Dominique Tipper

 

The girls would then go on first for the opening number, entering onto the stage on a 'riser' platform that elevates them up onto the stage. The first look was a super glamorous white lace dress with netted fascinators, which was pre-set with their next look underneath, and so when they come off stage in that one, it was a bit of a mad dash to get the dresses and head pieces off! This was REALLY quick and so as I couldn't do all 6 dancers' zips at the same time, they would help each other, and sometimes even the Boyzone drivers would help out too! Whatever gets it done, right? The next look that was preset was then underneath and ready for the girls to run back onto stage. 

That first one was the only really quick change. The other looks mostly involved setting out the costumes on the chairs for the girls, and making sure they had everything they needed. 

Michele would do the same in the boys’ room, laying out shirts and trousers, making sure zips and buttons/Velcro were all open, allowing the boys to get dressed as quickly as possible.

All in all over the 22 shows, there were no major mishaps, nothing went disastrously wrong, and everyone made it on stage on time, in the right costumes! I think there may have been a wrong shoes worn moment, and I know once of my dancers popped a swimsuit strap on stage, but all in all, it was fairly un-problematic.

During the show, we would then 'wrap' each look, meaning we packed it away ready to either go for laundry, or to go back into the flight cases for transportation. Our local crew would assist me, as with 6 dancers and 6 looks, there was a LOT to get through! We would vodka spray, Febreeze, and pack the costumes and accessories away, meticulously counting everything back in each time to make sure nothing got lost.

 

Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour, photo by Patrick Downes

Once the gig is over at about 10:30pm, we then have to ensure we have everything back from quick change, as these get packed down very quickly once the show is over! There’s no mucking around, as soon as the performers step off stage the pack down starts and the crew begin packing away the stage, speakers and rigging. It all comes with us. I was pretty surprised about this, as having only done theatre tours before, I am used to the staging staying where it is for the most part. It’s amazing watching the whole arena's worth of stage get packed down - they do it SO quickly! Which is why it’s important for us to make sure we have everything, otherwise it’s easy for things to get lost.

Once the flight cases are packed, and we have organized and counted everything back in, they get closed and then rolled off onto the tour trucks. We wont see them again until the next venue, even if its an 'off day'. So if there’s any laundry or fixing to do, we often kept it out of the cases and took it onto the tour bus with us. 

Once flight cases are closed, it’s then onto the tour bus to get some sleep, and travel over night to the next location. We would usually be done around midnight, sometimes later. It’s a long old day!

The tour busses are pretty cramped, but surprisingly comfortable. Once you get used to sleeping in a bunk, its not so bad. We would occasionally have the treat of a hotel, once every maybe 3 shows when we have an 'off day'. We then get the opportunity to go and explore whichever town we are next gigging in, as the off day is spent after having already travelled. I got to see such glamorous locations as Newcastle, Dublin and Bournemouth. It’s on these nights the crew would maybe socialize, and what with it being so close to Christmas; we did have one or two nights out enjoying ourselves! 

 

Boyzone 20th Anniversary Tour

On the last night of the tour, there were a few change ups, just for laughs! The boys went on in Christmas jumpers, and the backing band and dancers went on with Superman T-Shirts to honour late band member Steven Gately who died in 2009.

The tour was a lot of fun, but it was also exhausting! The crew and performers were all wonderful, and it was fab to be a part of the team for four weeks!

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Thank you to Wendy for this insider’s look at wardrobe for touring musicians. Sounds like quite the adventure to take if you ever have the opportunity! Make sure to check out Wendy’s site to see some of her expert creations.

www.WendyBenstead.com